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Kayla Cyphers brings the role of Nala to life. (Photo by Deen van Meer)

“The Lion King” is arguably one of the most beloved musicals of all times. Disney’s “The Lion King” is often cited as a favorite of millennials and the stage production is renowned for its iconic performances.

For the past several years, the musical has been touring throughout the United States and it recently introduced a new cast member. Kayla Cyphers, who hails from California, joined the cast four months ago as Nala, Simba’s childhood friend turned romantic partner and heroine in her own right.

Cyphers said that growing up, “Lion King” was one of her favorite films and in sixth grade, she saw the stage production for the first time and loved it. Despite eventually choosing to study musical theatre, Cyphers explained it wasn’t her first choice.

In high school, Cyphers performed in one musical her senior year, but otherwise stuck with show choir.

After graduating, her plan was to major in fashion design but two years in, something changed.

“I was craving to sing and be on stage,” she said.

So, with some encouragement from family and friends, Cyphers took the plunge. Cyphers said she didn’t know a lot about musical theatre, but her education at AMDA, based in Los Angeles gave her the tools and preparation for the real world.

Disney’s “The Lion King” has long been considered one of the best productions to grace the stage. (Photo by Deen van Meer)

Even though Cyphers wasn’t sure what the industry would be like, having the proper tools made the adjustment easier. After graduation, Cyphers began auditioning.

“I auditioned for about two years before I got “The Lion King,”’ said Cyphers. “When I first started out, I really just wanted anything.”

Before booking “The Lion King” she was cast as Raven in the North American Tour of “Bat Out Of Hell,” which was unfortunately canceled. She also played the titular character in “Aida” for two months at the John W. Engeman Theatre and it was this role that would prepare her for what was to come.

After several more auditions, Cyphers eventually got the call: she would be the Lion King’s next Nala.

Upon hearing the news, Cyphers was thrilled but also a little nervous.

“Nala is a big role and it’s not taken lightly,” she said.

Fortunately, the cast was very welcoming to Cyphers and were there to help her bring the role to life. The entire ensemble is needed to translate the magic into a stage production, she said. Cyphers noted that putting on Nala’s costume further helped her get into character.

During rehearsals, she wore a practice corset but wearing the headpiece and beaded corset helped her find her grounding in the character. Even when Nala is unsure about what her future holds, she makes a decision and goes for it, Cyphers said. Her song, “Shadowlands” is a pivotal moment for her so being able to understand her as a character brings another level of emotional depth to the performance, she said.

Some nights her performance may seem stronger or more emotional and it’s because as an actress, she brings her feelings to the forefront of her performance.

Each night in the show is different, but it’s an honest portrayal of these characters played by real people, she said.

Now, several months into her contract, Cyphers continues to love being a part the musical. The cast is really close knit and she enjoys traveling to different cities and meeting the locals. Each time the cast enters a new city it’s like entering a new way of life, she said.

Cyphers and the rest of the cast will be bringing the magic to life in Milwaukee until the end of the month. It’s a musical for all ages that never fails to impress.

Disney’s “The Lion King” will be performing in Milwaukee at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, 929 N. Water St., from now until Sunday, March 1. For showtimes and tickets go to https://www.marcuscenter.org/show/disneys-lion-king-marcus-center.

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